Days of Whine and Horses

Since last weekend, Cookie has had another three off-leash walks – yes! Three!

The first one was with my friend J and her dogs, we went to the Watermeadows, which is a wide expanse of marshy fields, very open and safely tucked away from the main road.  We started off with four balls between us, and spent the first ten minutes throwing them enthusiastically.  Then one of mine got burst (it was a really cheap one), Cookie went off at a tangent to dig at some molehills and I had to follow her and bring her back.  Shortly after that, we realised that another ball was missing, presumably dropped by either Cookie or Tattie as they galumphed around.  At that stage, my nerve failed me and I put Cookie back on the leash, but she had a good twenty minutes running around with the other dogs, which was lovely to see.

Cookie and Poppie in the Watermeadows

On Saturday, the LSH and I went back to the Watermeadows, with our two dogs and our guest dog Poppie.  As soon as the ball was produced, Cookie was leaping up and down enthusiastically, whining and whimpering with excitement.  The LSH is better at throwing than me, and this time it went much better, with Cookie and Poppie galumphing around the fields merrily for a whole hour.  Cookie got distracted with interesting scents a couple of times, but we were delighted to see that when we moved on, she followed us.  She seems to be getting the idea that she needs to keep an eye on us!

The next day, we went for a walk along a ridge at the eastern end of the Luberon.  Once again, we had a couple of balls with us, and once again, Cookie was in a frenzy of excited concentration, whining and whimpering until the ball was thrown, vying with Poppie to be the one to retrieve it and and dashing back to us as fast as she could afterwards, with or without the ball, to receive her reward.

The only little glitch happened when we were homeward bound.  We met a large group of walkers, accompanied by a golden retriever.  Poppy was on point duty, and she froze when she saw them and then bolted up to the top of the ridge, from where she watched proceedings (she is very nervous of strangers).  Cookie rolled up her sleeves and went into attack mode, making a beeline for the retriever, barking hysterically as she ran.  She almost heeded our calls to return to our side, but a certain Small Brown Dog decided that Cookie needed reinforcements, and belatedly entered the fray, with her piercing yap echoing around the hills.  At the last minute, she went into “Oh hello, you look nice, let’s play” mode with the retriever (who was very tolerant, bless him), which confused Cookie long enough for us to grab her.

Fortunately the walking group didn’t seem to be offended by the Hyper-Terrier attack and Poppy quickly came down from the ridge once they disappeared, so it all ended well.  We do realise, though, that we are a long way from Cookie being reliable off-leash, our fingers are firmly crossed that we do eventually get there…

Rugby got in the way of any horse-riding on Saturday (Go Ireland! Only four more matches until we’re Grand Slam Champions!) so on Sunday, straight after walking the dogs, we went up to the horses and headed out for a Long One.

Sleepy Aero ears heading out!

We went along the top of the ridge, Reclapous, for a while, then descended into the valley behind it, travelled the whole length of the ridge in the valley and then climbed up again at the Reillanne end, eventually rejoining the ridge-top walk where I’ve been with the dogs many times.  It was three hours in total, with a very long descent followed by a slightly less long, steeper ascent, through forest and scrubland the whole way.  Click on the link below to see a couple of extra photos.
Circuit de Reclapous at EveryTrail

My new size 2WW Renegades arrived during the week.  I put them on Aero’s front feet, and Flurry got to wear the old, fairly worn size 2WWs on his hinds (they were originally his front boots for all of Le Big Trek).  He was noticeably more comfortable with them on, and I think I will continue to use them for any long rides we do for the foreseeable future, although I intend to experiment with leaving him fully barefoot for short rides.  Meanwhile his front feet continue to spread, which is a good thing I suppose, except it is now a struggle to get his right front Cavallo SportBoot on.  ARGH!  I don’t want to have to buy more boots!!!

For the first time ever, one of the straps on a Renegade boot opened mid-ride – on one of Flurry’s hinds, the oldest pair of boots we are using – and was so badly coated with mud that there was no way it was going to close again.  Fortunately we had our emergency kit with us and just swapped the old strap for a nice clean new one – Piece of Cake!  One of the reasons I like the Renegades!

How was Aero for this trek – the longest he has done so far?  Well, he was dead lazy going out along the first section of the ridge, but as soon as we turned to begin the descent from Reclapous, a new section which neither horse had seen before, he became much more alert.  He didn’t put a foot wrong, but I could feel him “watching” behind with his ears the whole time, and at one stage he almost felt like he was scurrying along with his tail clamped down, anticipating that a mountain lion or a pack of wolves was about to spring out and attack him.  Fortunately, nothing awful happened, and at the far end of the ridge, he met his very first long, steep, rocky climb.  He tried to rush it initially, which works with short, steep climbs, but when you’ve got a steep 350 metre ascent, you have to take it steady, and eventually he did, following Flurry’s lead and picking his ground carefully as we climbed.

We tried out another new bit of kit as well, the cantle-mounted saddlebag which I bought at Cheval Passion – you can just barely make it out behind the LSH’s bum in the photo above.  Flurry got to carry it with two bottles of water and our picnic in it.  It’s a bit small, but it worked fine, except when he shook himself – one of the bottles of water fell out, but I don’t think that will happen if we pull the drawstrings tight enough!  Aero got to carry the pommel mounted saddlebag for the first time, I deliberately didn’t put much in it, just the first aid kit and hoof boot repair kit.  As expected, he took no notice of the new attachment at all.  Next time, I’ll put a bit more in it!  And then after that, my new Tapis Sacoches will have arrived :

And we’ll have fun loading that up!

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